Synopsis – A crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission descend into paranoia and madness, not knowing what is real or not.
My Take – While franchises and films based on astronauts stuck in space continue to be the flavor over the past decade, as a fan of the genre I have been unable to comprehend the decreasing system of original science fiction releases for some time.
Hence to a varying degree I held certain expectations from this latest from filmmaker Neil Burger, who directed the first Veronica Roth YA adaptation, Divergent (2014), despite the presence of a very familiar set up of a crew isolated in space and increasingly divided by fear and paranoia.
And while I found the film to be visually pleasing, and obviously influenced by William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies and other YA properties, what eventually frustrated me was that director Burger doesn’t bring anything new to the already well-known, successful sci-fi formula, and ignores every opportunity to deviate from that predictable narrative path.
While the themes of the story are clear from the get-go, but the execution and the screenplay fail to deliver a creative, captivating story with compelling characters, who’s every action feels incredibly forced. Throughout the plot elements keep feeling repetitive as we watch the ship’s crew bicker and argue over the same topic repeatedly to the point the film becomes laughable instead of something more exciting and memorable.
It is sad that a not even a talented cast such as the one attached to this can overcome such an awful script.
Beginning in 2063, the story sees the future of the human race in danger on Earth, hence a plan is conceived to colonize another planet. With the arrival mission set to take about 86 years to complete, a young crew of 30 astronauts, both male and female, are selected, who despite never getting the chance to see their new home, are recruited to serve their purpose of breeding, allowing their future generations to arrive and colonize.
Leading the crew as their chief is Richard Alling (Colin Farrell), a scientist who has been working with the children and volunteers to go along due to his attachment to them. However, ten years into the mission, two members of the mission, Christopher (Tye Sheridan) and Zac (Fionn Whitehead), begin to question a few elements and practices on the ship, especially a blue liquid, which is revealed to be a drug to suppress natural desires and make them more docile.
But what starts as a minor act of rebellion quickly leads to a path of madness and paranoia, not just for Christopher and Zac but for the entire onboard crew, as life on the ship descends into chaos, consumed by fear, lust and the hunger for power. To make matters worse, both Christopher and Zac begin to vie for the attention of Sela (Lily-Rose Depp), causing further divide, as a possible threat of an alien creature on the ship also begins to loom.
With its premise all set to explore, I was generally curious to know what will happen next, and especially regarding the presence of an alien on board. But director Burger plays his story so straight, with no hint of humor or irony, that the film also offers no surprises and even keeps the philosophizing to a minimum, which is a shame.
The main problem the film faces is that it is eager to address age-old philosophical questions like nature versus nurture and right versus wrong without any sort of strong, clear thesis on the topics. We know who is good and who is bad, but we don’t understand their motivations for why they choose order or chaos. We witness characters doing repeated things: questioning the truth, arguing over leadership, exhibiting trust issues, and seeing teenagers discover their emotions and sexual feelings for the first time.
While such discovery seems like an interesting concept for the first time, the film reveals these aspects in a repetitive, confusing manner. Did going off the Blue have some effect that made the passengers change more dramatically? That isn’t clear either. All we know is that some remain level-headed and sane while the rest turn into rabid dogs in pursuit of a juicy bone. It is just frustrating watching these so-called intelligent youth make continually unwise choices.
From the terrible editing work to the extremely lazy plot development, passing through cringe-worthy dialogues and randomly weird, irrelevant imagery, it’s tough to find a positive aspect in such a hollow film. Even though most of the runtime is spent in a single location, the suspense levels are close to zero.
But like I mentioned above, I found the film to be at least visually pleasing. The world of outer space and future technology concepts on the ship were rather creative and great to see, and elements such as the sound effects were also good.
The performances are overall satisfactory, considering the weak script. Colin Farrell doesn’t get too much screen time, but does enough to leave a lasting impression. Tye Sheridan starts off as a bit too calm and emotionless for what the film is trying to be, but manages to step up, especially in the final act. Fionn Whitehead gets to ham it up as his campy villain, and keeps his act hatefully enjoyable.
While Lily-Rose Depp despite being centered as the focal point of the plot, doesn’t get much to do. In other roles, Chanté Adams, Quintessa Swindell, Isaac Hempstead Wright, and Archie Madekwe bring in notable turns. On the whole, ‘Voyagers’ is a frustratingly generic sci-fi thriller with high-stakes and low rewards.
Directed – Neil Burger
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 118 minutes